With hairstylists and beauty pros constantly talking to people, working on their feet and sharing their energy with clients on a daily basis, it’s not unusual for some to feel the weight of their job—both physically and mentally. For salon owners, it’s important to recognize these challenges while helping to find appropriate solutions.
“We’re filling up everybody else’s cup, while giving—all day, every day—and it’s draining for us,” says Jody Kezar, a hairstylist, salon coach and co-owner of Evolve Hair Studio in Toronto. “Mental health is so important for us because if we don’t keep up with it, we can become so tired that our careers in the beauty industry can be short-lived.”
Although everyone is different and may face mental health issues that are unique to them, there are some very common issues shared by many in the industry.
“We have such a ripple effect on people,” says Shelby Bettencourt, a hairstylist, coach, podcast host and salon owner based in Miami. “Clients look forward to coming to see us and they’re excited to get their hair done, which is the way it should be. But in order for us to show up and care for our clients in the best way possible, we have to take care of ourselves. If we’re unhappy, it’s not only going to affect us, but also how often we see our clients and how many clients we have.”
Are You (Or Your Staff) Experiencing Burnout?
Most of us have heard the term (and have even experienced) “burnout” both pre- and post-pandemic, and it continues to be a real issue within the beauty industry. Burnout can happen when you overtax yourself or when you continue to work under stressful conditions that can make it difficult to manage your mental health. It can also cause you to feel unhappy with the work you’re doing, make you feel like you want to stay in bed all day, or can even impact your desire to socialize outside of work.
“Burnout means that we’re avoiding something that needs to change,” says Bettencourt. “Whether it’s your scheduled work, how you communicate, not having your systems in place, or who and what you’re saying ‘yes’ to, we’re avoiding the real solution to a problem we have.”
Take A Break
“Reset yourself, take some time off to actually relax, reset, recharge and disconnect from technology,” says Kezar. “I think stylists keep pushing along and then eventually get to a point where they start to resent what they do.”
Trying to determine the root cause of what’s causing feelings of burnout is also important. “Find out what the problem is and determine if it’s flowing into other aspects of your life,” says Bettencourt.
Jody Kezar is the co- owner of Evolve Hair Studio in Toronto, and is a salon coach and colourist specializing in colour and extensions. In 2019, she co-founded The Elevated Stylist, a wellness retreat for hairstylists and salon owners.
Shelby Bettencourt is the owner of Makers Loft in Miami, and is a coach, educator and the host of the podcast, Healthy Wealthy Stylist.
“Ask yourself the right questions to come up with a solution.” Another good way to help reduce burnout is by setting boundaries for yourself. As hard as it may seem, it’s okay to leave work, at work. “You have to make sure that you’re shutting it off at night and when you leave the salon,” says Kezar. “Enjoy your life and don’t think about your job when you aren’t there. Creating those boundaries for the hours that you work and the hours that you experience joy is important.”
Is There Competition in the Salon?
Whether you work with a big or small team, it’s very easy to compare your work with others’, which can cause a lot of daily stress and anxiety.
“It’s an industry where we are constantly being judged. We’re being judged by ourselves, by our peers and by our clients,” says Kezar. “This can negatively affect us, our work, the success we have behind the chair, as well as our personal lives.”
In addition to competition in the salon, stylists can often feel the weight of the trust clients put on them. For some, this may result in overthinking a style they’ve created and even worrying about whether or not the client likes the end result.
Check In With Yourself (And Others)
“Check in yourself and be aware of what you’re thinking about and how you’re feeling,” says Kezar. “Try waking up in the morning with a routine. I start my day with an hour off my phone and I mediate for at least 20 minutes, which is something I have built up to, but any type of physical activity to move your muscles and awaken your body so that it knows it’s ready for the day is a great place to start.”
While it can be difficult to know exactly how to help your staff or colleagues with emotional or mental difficulties, sometimes the easiest place to start is to make it known that these issues are okay to talk about.
“I think an open-door policy is the best way as a salon owner to help others with mental health problems,” says Kezar. “Everybody at our salon knows that they’re welcome to come talk to us.” “When they take that step and initially approach us with an issue, we tell them that if they ever feel unhappy, they should come to us,” adds Kezar. “When they first come to us, we talk to them about some different options and offer them support, and if it’s bigger than that, we tell them to take the time off and find the support that they need.”
Do You (or Your Colleagues) Struggle with Self-Identity?
Also keep in mind that while it’s normal to have a deep love for what you do as
a stylist, separating yourself from your work identity is crucial. “After quarantine, I noticed a shift in my mental health and began thinking ‘If I’m not a hairdresser then who am I?’” says Bettencourt. “That changed me as a person because I had to figure out what I liked to do outside of the salon. Now, when I’m here, I’m a more well-rounded person.”
“Our sense of purpose is something that I think stylists really thrive on, and when that’s taken away, people feel lost,” adds Kezar. “I think that during the pandemic, people felt like they didn’t have a purpose or a sense of belonging. People need to feel that sense of community.”
Do What Makes You Happy
“I have a fun day each week where I don’t check emails and I don’t have to
be by the computer,” says Bettencourt. “I just allow myself to do what makes me happy and what’s fun to me. I allow myself that time so I can show up and be ready to do the work with a clear mind.”
“We have four-day work weeks at our salon,” says Kezar. “Our staff has three days off to make sure they’re recharging and doing things that feed their joy.”
Are You Feeling Alone?
When it comes to salon owners, it’s easy to get into the mindset that you have to take on the world by yourself. “Salon owners can feel like they don’t have the support, and that no one knows how it feels,” says Bettencourt. “They hold onto the idea that they have to do everything alone and that they can’t ask for help.”
“I think a lot of salon owners feel like they have to do everything perfectly,” adds Kezar. “That’s a really lonely and stressful place to be.”
Sometimes you may need outisde help, and it’s important to feel okay about asking for it.
“Seek the answers you need. If you know there’s a portion of your business that is causing you stress or anxiety, go and find somebody to teach you how to better understand and/or manage it,” says Kezar. “Once you invite other people to help and support you, that’s when the magic happens. It’s also when your business will run smoothly, your staff will be happy, and you won’t be wasting time trying to do everything yourself.”
“Tap into your mental health by asking others for support and figure out what’s working and what isn’t,” adds Bettencourt. “Going to experts that can help is really important. Sometimes you may feel like you’re doing okay, but once you sit down with someone else and start talking about how you’re doing, they’re able to ask the right questions to get to the root of a problem you may not even know that you had.”
If you’re looking for a way to start improving your (or your staff’s) mental health, try the Happy Healthy Hairstylist (HHH) Challenge.
Bettencourt created this 45-day challenge because she believes these five habits tap into a hairstylist’s mindset, movement and nutrition. She says when these areas are in alignment, success is created.
If you miss any task(s), you have to start again at day one.
Drink half a gallon of water every day.
Perform 30 minutes of movement (eg. go to the gym, walk, stretch, bike, etc.).
Pack a lunch for work—no takeout.
Read 10 pages of an educational or inspirational book.
Arrive at least 15 minutes before your first client.